| Silver Mountain, Point 13,681, and then some
Since there is not a current trip report for Silver Mountain or Point 13,681, I decided to share my experience with the 14ers.com community. I had wanted to hike Silver and Point 13,681 ever since I had moved to Lake City. I have always looked out on these peaks while driving into Lake City from Gunnison, across the Blue Mesa Cutoff, or from other summits south of these peaks.
When planning to hike these two bicentennial peaks, I had always just assumed that I would be backpacking in, and it would take a multi-day trip to make summiting them reasonable. As I got more fit during this year’s hiking season, I hatched a plan to do these peaks along with Points 13,051 and 13,016, and the nearly ranked “Big Blue Peak” in a day from the Nellie Creek 4WD trailhead. My good friend Erik Kling and his dog Io joined me. Erik took all of the photos in this trip report.
We left my house in Lake City at 4:50 a.m., and were at the Nellie Creek Trailhead at 5:30. We were hiking at 5:40 in the dark, and took the Livestock Driveway switchbacks northeast out of Nellie Creek up to the saddle at just over 12,400 feet where we were greeted by a wonderful sunrise.
Sunrise from the Livestock Driveway saddle north of Nellie Creek.
Instead of following the Livestock Driveway trail down into the upper Big Blue Creek drainage where it meets the Big Blue Pack Trail, we hiked north-northwest out of the Livestock Driveway saddle to a steep but mostly grassy gully in Uncompahgre’s eastern ridge. Before descending the gully, we had a spectacular view of Big Blue Peak’s southern ridge, and a large herd of elk.
View of the sunlit southern ridge of "Big Blue Peak" from the top of the notch in Uncompahgre's east ridge.
We discussed options and picked our route, and decided that we would descend the gully, traverse past a pond/tarn, and ascend Big Blue Peak’s southern ridge once we reached it.
After descending the gully we traversed over to the tarn, where the morning light was putting on a show on Uncompahgre’s steep northeast face.
Morning light on Uncompahgre.
The tarn and Uncompahgre.
The elk herd was still in place, and we smiled as we listened to the bulls bugle over and over again.
As we began ascending Big Blue Peak’s grassy south ridge, the elk finally took notice and moved east away from us.
Io and Punchy taking in the view of Uncompahgre while ascending Big Blue Peak's southern ridge.
We topped out on Big Blue Peak a short time later, and took in our first close views of Silver Mountain. The hike over to Silver Mountain from Big Blue went quickly, and we enjoyed hiking along the exposure of Silver’s east side.
The traverse from Silver Mountain to Point 13,681 was also simple and straightforward.
Patrick and Punchy on the northern slopes of Silver Mountain with Point 13,681 in the background.
We arrived on the summit of Point 13,681 at 10:00 a.m., and were shocked at how little time was needed to get to 13,681 from the Nellie Creek trailhead – only a little more than 4 hours!
Patrick and Punchy chilling on the summit of Point 13,681. Silver Mountain is just left of the bill of my hat.
We descended southeast back down from the summit of 13,681 to its saddle with Silver Mountain, and then re-climbed up to Silver’s massive north/south ridge to a mild saddle north of Silver’s true summit, about halfway between its true summit and point 13,438. We found a weakness in this section of Silver’s ridge, and descended on dirt, snow and through a steep tower-lined gully.
View looking south from the top of the saddle/notch that we descended off of Silver into. Io can be seen in the snow, and so can Silver's summit.
View back up the gully we descended off of the eastern side of Silver through.
More distant view of the weakness in Silver's eastern side. Our glissade marks can be seen in the snow about 1/3 into the photo from the right.
Once down, we traversed east crossing the Little Cimmaron Trail and the Fall Creek drainage, to a small lake northeast of Point 13,051. We continued northeast up the long southwestern ridge of Point 13,016 to its summit.
View north from high in the Fall Creek drainage.
Punchy waiting for Patrick to arrive at the summit of Point 13,016.
From the summit of Point 13,016, we reversed our route back down to the Lake, and then ascended the grassy northern slopes of Point 13,051.
View of the lake and Point 13,016 from the northern ridge of Point 13,051.
Arriving at the summit of Point 13,051.
From the summit of Point 13,051, it was an easy descent west where we picked up the Big Blue Pack Trail, which we took back to the Livestock Driveway saddle we had reached at sunrise earlier in the day. Erik was still going strong, and decided to add Point 13,106 to the day’s hike from the Livestock saddle. As I had already hiked Point 13,106 previously, I elected to descend back into the Nellie Creek drainage where I arrived at the car at about 3:45 p.m.
View of Uncompahgre and Livestock Driveway saddle (directly below Uncompahgre's summit) that we passed through early in the morning.
The multiple drainages which run north from the Wetterhorn/Uncompahgre area are visually stunning, seldom visited, and worth every bit of the effort required to penetrate them. They can easily be visited in long day hikes, or with backpacks. Additionally, Points 13,100, and Sheep Mountain could be added to the above described hike by those who wish to suffer, or are training for a mountain ultra, or both. Doing so appeared to complicate switching drainages, but did not appear undoable. Adding these two peaks would make for a big day.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):